Last updated on April 18, 2021
Business groups are pushing back on proposals to increase Maine’s minimum wage, saying the move would cost jobs and hamper post-pandemic recovery.
On Monday, the Legislature’s Committee on Labor and Housing heard from supporters and opponents of several legislative proposals to increase the wage and others that would set limits on how much it can increase in coming years.
One proposal would increase the minimum wage from the current $12.15 per hour to $16 per hour in 2026 in increments of $1 each year, and starting in 2022, set a minimum hourly rate of $16 per hour for public school staff.
Another bill would increase the minimum hourly wage, starting Jan. 1, 2022, from its present $12.15 per hour to $13 per hour and by an additional $1 per hour each year until 2025 to $16 per hour. Subsequent increases would be tied to inflation.
Maine’s minimum wage increased from $12 to $12.15 in January under a state law that requires yearly adjustments tied to the cost of living index. The minimum wage has increased by a dollar every year for the past three years.
The Retail Association of Maine, a business trade group, said hiking the minimum wage again would hurt small businesses struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our tourism, hospitality, motor coach industry and live event venues are still dramatically impacted by the pandemic,” Curtis Picard, the group’s president/CEO told the panel on Monday. “How will raising the minimum wage by 25% help get these businesses back on their feet?”
Other trade groups like the Agricultural Council of Maine also oppose the changes, saying they will drive up labor costs at a time when many farmers are struggling to survive.
“Each time the mandated minimum wage is increased, the economic stress for farms is dramatically increased because it increases the number of jobs that are in direct competition with farm positions in terms of economic compensation,” the council told the committee in written testimony. “As minimum wages increase, it raises the starting wage level for all jobs – on and off the farm, pushing expenses for the farm higher.”
Dirk Gouwens, executive director of the Ski Maine Association, a trade group that represents ski resorts, told the committee on Monday that substantially increasing the minimum wage would put Maine at a disadvantage to neighboring states.
“Our current system guarantees that any increases in the minimum wage are based on actual data rather than emotions,” Gouwens said. “It is a better system for employers and should stay in place as is.”
Meanwhile, progressive groups voiced opposition to other legislative proposals heard by the labor committee on Monday that seek to postpone the yearly adjustments to the minimum wage, exclude younger workers from wage increases, and prevent cities and towns from authorizing “hazard pay” for local workers.
“Rolling back Maine’s minimum wage with cuts based on someone’s age or delaying cost-of-living increases will make life harder for working families who are already suffering the most under the current pandemic and entrenched inequality,” Rachel Ackoff, a campaign director for the Maine People’s Alliance, told the committee.
“Taking away municipal rights to increase wages and provide for hazard pay takes away local control and ignores the differences in costs for housing, food and other basic necessities across Maine,” she added.
This article was originally posted on Maine lawmakers consider minimum wage hike